Palace were on the back foot for much of the encounter, with the hosts having almost 70% possession, but netted twice on the counter-attack.
Zaha’s thumping strike was saved by Alphonse Areola but in the next move the Ivorian slipped a sublime reverse ball through to Jairo Riedewald to slot in the opener.
Fulham could have got back into the contest but Ademola Lookman twice hit the woodwork in the opening period, seeing an effort tipped onto the near post by Vicente Guaita and drilling a drive across goal which rattled the other post.
The visitors capitalised in the second half as Michy Batshuayi picked out Zaha for an easy finish at the back post.
Hodgson said of Zaha: “He reminds us that when he’s on top of his game he’s a very hard player to stop.
“He’s an excellent player and that’s what he’s capable of doing. He deserves all the praise he’s going to get.”
Fulham were reduced to 10 men late on when substitute Aboubakar Kamara was shown a red card for raking his studs on the back of Ebere Eze’s leg, and skipper Tom Cairney’s stunning, long-range strike proved merely a consolation.
Palace made a huge leap up the table, jumping from 14th place to fifth, while Fulham remain rooted and stay in search of their first win.
Zaha causes havoc
Palace conceded late on against Brighton in their previous game and had to be content with a point, but the win over Fulham ends a run of three without victory.
After that home draw against the Seagulls, ex-Fulham manager Hodgson took aim at his star man Zaha suggesting he could have contributed more and expects his player to “cause havoc”.
The former Manchester United man responded by doing just that against the Cottagers, showcasing dancing feet and superb skills to lead Palace to their third win of the campaign.
Hodgson said: “If ever I sound mildly critical he thinks I’m picking on him, but every press conference I go to he’s the only player they want to talk to me about.”
Zaha’s step-overs and darts forward often left Fulham full-back Ola Aina floundering, while one ‘scorpion kick’ pass to a team-mate was particularly outrageous, stretching out his leg and flicking the ball over his head.
And his menace turned into a match-winning contribution too, a delightful ‘no-look’ pass carved open the Fulham defence for Riedewald’s first Palace goal.
Zaha somehow nodded a free header wide from six yards out but did get his fifth goal this term by converting Batshuayi’s lay-off, although there was concern when he collided with the post in scoring.
He managed to finish the game and could have been on the scoresheet again in injury-time, but his effort from close range was ruled out for offside.
Zaha added: “I love football so there’s no day I don’t enjoy it really. I’ve set myself personal goals and that’s what I’m attacking every day.”
Problems for Parker everywhere
Where do you even start with Fulham?
Their six games played since returning to the top flight has yielded just a solitary point from a possible 18 available and Scott Parker’s side look prime candidates for relegation.
They have netted just five times but Cairney’s brilliant, 95th-minute effort avoided the prospect of going their opening three games at Craven Cottage without a goal.
Their problems in defence are even more stark with three of the back four – Aina, Tosin Adarabioyo and Antonee Robinson – all signing this season and Fulham have shipped 14 goals, more than any other team in the top flight.
Fulham enjoy keeping the ball, they had 612 passes to Palace’s 331, but badly lack incisiveness in the final third.
Striker Aleksandar Mitrovic was left frustrated with a lack of service and on-loan Lookman looked sharp at times, but did not get on the ball enough in threatening positions.
Had his two shots that struck the posts gone in, it could well have been a different story.
Sub Kamara was sent on to add more attacking threat but ended up being dismissed – referee Graham Scott initially gave a yellow card which seemed fair, but changed his decision after watching the replay on the pitchside monitor.
Fulham host West Brom on Monday, 2 November (kick-off 17:30 GMT), while Palace travel to Wolves on Friday, 30 November (20:00 GMT).
Zaha king of the Palace – the stats
- Fulham’s haul of just one point after their first six games is their worst-ever return at this stage of a top-flight campaign.
- Crystal Palace have won three consecutive league matches against Fulham for the first time since October 1930.
- Of managers to oversee at least 15 Premier League games, only Jan Siewert (80%) and Brian Laws (78%) have lost a higher percentage of their games than Fulham boss Scott Parker (75% – 12 losses out of 16).
- Crystal Palace directed 10 shots on target in the game, the most they’ve managed in an away Premier League since August 2018, also against Fulham (10).
- 33 years and 65 days separated the ages of Fulham boss Scott Parker and Crystal Palace’s Roy Hodgson, the second-biggest gap in age between two English managers in a Premier League game after the 35 years and 38 days difference between Hodgson and Swansea’s Leon Britton in December 2017.
- Crystal Palace midfielder Jairo Riedewald netted his first Premier League goal in his 33rd game in the competition, with what was his first-ever shot on target.
- Wilfried Zaha has scored five goals in his last six Premier League games for Crystal Palace, as many as in his previous 41 combined.
- Wilfried Zaha has been directly involved in 65 goals for Crystal Palace in the Premier League (41 goals, 24 assists), over twice as many as the next best tally (32 for both James McArthur and Jason Puncheon).
- Aboubakar Kamara’s sending off was Fulham’s first Premier League red card since December 2018, when André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was dismissed against Manchester United.